Dior wannabe – my wedding dress bodice

The thing I’m most proud of on my wedding dress is how my beginner attempts at draping went. The whole bodice fit and looked exactly how I wanted.

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I used an ivory satin base, rose print organza in between, and soft organza with subtle twinkle on top. With luxury interfacing and a boned muslin layer for support the bodice took the longest time to complete.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

I started by mounting the rose print on top of each silk that was interfaced with my luxury weft interfacing from Alison Smith’s bridal sewing course. I agonized over the rose placement but in reality I didn’t need to bother as it’s just fuzzy pink underneath the finished bodice.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

I assembled all the seams, clipped and notched then catch stitched the allowances. I then padded my mannequin and pinned my bodice up.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

To drape the bodice I tried a few different size pleats (see below) but decided 1″ overlapping pleats pointed upwards looked best. Bestie, bridesmaid and bridal seamstress Charly advise positioning a big piece of fabric with the crosswise grain straight across the bodice, keep it pinned to my mannequin body, and then create the pleats.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

Starting with the left hand side I had to hand stitch the under bust seam line and then trim the excess fabric down to a hideable length. This was turned under and stitched in place. I used a strand of yarn to remind me of the best curve for my right hand side seam line.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

Draping the right side was much harder. I had to create a neat fold that started at the centre front point and then swooped aggressively to cover the seam line. I was too scared to mark the seam line on the fabric in case it didn’t come out so just put one tiny pink dot in fabric pencil at the centre point of the V. The organza was very resistant to draping into such a strong curve and it took 5 or 6 attempts. Then I had to match the second pleats on each side so they were the same height at the princess seam point but it still had to swoop under the bust pleasingly.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

On both sides the most difficult areas were just under the bust point where a dart would easily absorb the curve. The organza was very difficult to position and I must have gone over the left facing side 15 times or more. Watch my upcoming video to see why. Eventually I found a way to absorb the excess and keep the pleats the same width. Lots of twisting the organza about and draping the full curve rather than trying to drape it in small sections.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

The pleats start to overlap at the side seam, but I wanted them to be hidden neatly underneath each other – so the number of pleats at the side seams were even ready to match at the centre back. The pleats needed to be parallel across the waist to be flattering, but those last two pleats curve off into the seam allowance at the back away from the CB seam.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

The other tricky aspect was pinning everything in place without catching the bra or padding on the mannequin below. And not pulling the organza too taught, distorting the rows above or fabric below.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

To secure the pleats I decided to stitch at the princess seams and side seams then scattered stitches all over the bodice. I had to stitch in two ways; First tiny tiny tiny prick stitches at the top edge of the pleat (at the seam point), so tiny they weren’t really visible. Then prick stitches at the bottom edge of the pleat, inside the fold (for the stitches scattered around the bodice). There were a few places the stitches showed and undoing them was panic inducing. I stitched each seam in one go but for the scattered stitches these were done individually and knotted off/snipped before starting again in another place.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

The muslin inner bodice was cut slightly smaller that the outer because all the organza made the bodice very firm and the muslin still had a little stretch. My boning was cut from an old h&m dress. The one I wore to charly’s wedding in fact. It’s as thin as lingerie boning (about 4mm wide, 2mm thick), clear and very smooth. It’s bendy but was already in a curve. I don’t know if it was set into shape during construction or if years of being in the dress moulded them into their shape but they fit like a dream.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

Most advice for bridal sewing is to not place boning in the princess seams. It creates false shape, doesn’t add support over the bust and prevents adjustments down the line. BUT I ignored this because 1. As the bones were perfectly shaped to match my body they created a great shape, 2. I don’t need the bones to hold my bust up as I’m small chested and have a good bra, and 3. I hoped not to have to make adjustments. I made channels out of more muslin and stitched them inside with a little bit of wiggle room above and below which is very important for you to bend or move about. The muslin was the placed RS to the wrong side of the bodice and basted all around.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

Aligning the pleats at the centre back was eyes down and hope for the best. The lapped zipper could have ruined everything. Everything was basted around the outer edges then the excess trimmed down. One wiggled out of place in the end but I don’t really care.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

The last bodice stage was to install a lining made of duchesse silk satin. Seam allowance was clipped to help the sweetheart bodice shape, turn through neatly and understitched, then handstitched into place. And I decided to add rubber trimmed elastic to help the dress hug my body at the upper edge. A less attractive finish but worthwhile for that sense of security if you’re an enthusiastic dancer like me.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

Next up! A look at the skirt. I promise it won’t be as long as this post. I’ll also sharing sewing tips, costings and more before the end of the month. Any queries please do share them!

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My wedding dress – the test

I thought I’d share a quick peek of my test dress that shows how different my finished dress turned out.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

I ordered the yellow colourway of the rose organza specifically for the test (So I’d get the effect but wouldn’t be too precious about the fabric… we’ll touch on prices in another blog post), plus used white duchesse satin underneath and white chiffon on top. On this test the under bodice is Simplicity 1606 and the skirt is a full circle I drafted myself. The rose was mounted onto the satin then the front and back princess seams of the bodices were constructed. Each skirt was assembled at the side seams but the layers were kept separate to allow swish.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

Having never really tried draping before I first tried working flat, laying the bodice on my worktop. On the front I placed the pleats turned upwards, about 3/4″ wide and quite spread apart. On the back the pleats faced downwards. I then joined the side seams and attached to all three of the skirts.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

It was a really revealing test. The white satin and chiffon was too bright and the pleating made me look very flat chested. The upwards pleats were definitely more flattering but they needed more curves and to be placed closer together. The full circle skirt was great for twirling but I thought it should sit flatter on my tummy. And you could barely see the print so I needed to find something more sheer to go on top. I have a little of the yellow rose organza left so it’ll be lovely to make something from in the future. (Though it’s not as nice as the pink).

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing

I resolved to sit and think through the construction order more carefully and figure out if I could drape the bodice in one go rather than joining the side seams. Plus I had to work out how to install a zip into three layers of fabric!

In my next meaty post I’ll share the major part of the construction plus some videos of me making the dress.

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Thoughts on being an original – my dress inspiration

There are times when I feel imposter syndrome sneaking in and I start questioning whether I’m really a creative person at all. I start believe that I can’t think up any original ideas; I just copy things I’ve seen out in the world and I don’t actually know what I want to sew or wear. This comes and goes and it helps to remind myself that I have drafted an original design in the past, I am inventive with fabrics and I only feel happiness when I look in my wardrobe.

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And something guarranteed to make you feel more unsteady is a wedding and specifically a wedding dress. If like me you haven’t been dreaming about your ideal dress for years, there’s a sudden rush of confusion, pressure and indecision as you try and work out what to wear. I also know women who were rock-solidly confident in their dream dress until they were proposed to and the fear crept in.

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Its a giant white dress… that isn’t really like anything you’ve ever worn before. What is actually going to suit you and what you’re capable of sewing might also not match up! And how often are we asked to create pattern instructions from scratch that result in a flawless finish???

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing fabrics

It turns out, I couldn’t think up an original dress to make and I’m okay with that. Instead I went to several dress trials and whittled it down to one dress I really liked from Lou Lou bridal. I didn’t love it but I really really liked it. The way you can really like the possibilities a lovely pattern or piece of fabric holds. Then I thought about how I could tweak it and make it my own. Shortening it for sure, different bust gathers, a different combination of fabrics and a different skirt shape. I found a base pattern and made up the rest.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing fabrics

It has been a strange roller coaster ride: I found what was labelled rose voile curtain fabric online but what I actually think is the exact poly-organza fabric from the Lou Lou source dress. Ordered 5m too much silk organza and currently have no use for the excess. Made four toiles for fit and a wearable test. Nearly cried over the hem. Nearly cried over the zipper. And stabbed my fingers countless times.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing fabrics

It’s my dress, brought into being by these hands so it’s one of a kind in that sense and although I failed on an original design, I think I succeeded in testing my fitting, construction and time management skills.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing fabrics

I love my dress. Even though its not perfect… because can we ever sew THE PERFECT DRESS!? If you’ve managed to catch that unicorn please let me know in the comments.

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Sweet days of summer

So on Friday I got married to my favourite bloke in the world. We had unbelievably good weather, exchanged sweet and slightly soppy vows, laughed with all our friends and family, and danced the night away.

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It was a joy to wear my handmade dress and see the mix of reactions from people who finally saw it finished as well as people who learnt during the day that I’d made it myself. Made of organza layers over duchesse satin it was floaty, romantic and a dream to wear. I wanted to feel like I’d stepped out of a vintage Dior photo shoot and it really felt that way when I stepped into the ceremony room.

My dress was all finished the week before and packed in a long garment bag, hidden from view. I started working on my frock before Christmas, testing toiles, deciding on Simplicity 1606 as the base, and draping a test dress to see how I could create the bodice effect I wanted. I practiced seam finishes and stitch settings and agonised over fabric choices for each layer.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing fabrics

In April I did the bulk of the work, with the sewing room door firmly shut and my playlist blaring. I redrafted the skirt and just managed to get the pieces on my cutting table. I spent a long time on the bodice and used every single entomology pin I had. Hemming the four skirt layers was extremely stressful and then lining up my lapped zipper nearly pushed me over the edge but as I handstitched my lining into place I knew it was going to be alright.

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing fabrics

Everyone said to me on the day they couldn’t imagine what I was making but then they saw the dress it was exactly me, which was music to my ears. I’ll be sharing how I made the dress, tips and resources for future brides, and thoughts on the whole process throughout August. Like this post, a few will go up while I’m away on honeymoon but I’m excited to hear what you think when I’m back. So until then…

Lots of Love

Mrs Scarr xx

Almond rock wedding dress fit bride wedding day organza silk bridal sewing fabrics

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Is sewing making you a better person?

Did you ever wonder how sewing was changing your personality? Life skills? Or even hire-ability?? This post has been a long time coming and I’m still not sure it’s conveying exactly how awesome you’ve become through learning to sew. I talked about it with the Stitcher’s Brew team and Karen Ball in our super fun episode OUT TOMORROW and they encouraged me to finish the post and hit publish! I’ve tried to summarise all the ways sewing transfers to real world skills you may be better at than you realise.

Stay with me; it’ll all make sense! (I hope)

Project management

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There’s a reason we call our makes projects! You work out your requirements, gather all your supplies, execute the steps and keep up momentum. You’ve got end to end sight of where you’re starting and where you’re ending. You also set goals for yourself review them and feel accomplishment. When you feel bad over failures it’s just because you’re invested in the whole process but there’s always lessons to learn in project management! Perhaps you’re also trying this skill out by setting yourself deadlines… oooh that yummy adrenaline gets pumping.

Attention to detail

almond rock  blueprints for sewing, creativity, didyoumakethat, logic, memory, passion, problem solving, project management, sewing, Stitchers brew

Just like cooking you understand the method to creating. Which steps have to stay in order, and which can be slightly juggled for the same result. You can follow directions showing your attention to instructions and chronological working. And you can interpret the result from technical diagrams because your brain is logically and methodically predicting future steps. You know the importance of how seam allowances affect finished measurements, how neat straight lines of stitching help the polish of your garment and how a new fabric can change both the process and the results. You’re constantly paying attention to little things you’re taking for granted, and improving your skills with every new make.

Spacial reasoning

almond rock  blueprints for sewing, creativity, didyoumakethat, logic, memory, passion, problem solving, project management, sewing, Stitchers brew

Okay so this one isn’t wildly applicable in real life but you have gathered the understanding of making flat shapes curve around your 3d form. With every dart, seam, pleat or drape you are showing off a special kind of intelligence that you might have seen in those funny tests with different shaped cubes. Once you understand the spacial requirements of a situation you can reason yourself solutions meaning you’re forecasting answers to problems before testing them out, just like planning fit adjustments or design alterations. You’re a psychic seamstress!

Memory

almond rock  blueprints for sewing, creativity, didyoumakethat, logic, memory, passion, problem solving, project management, sewing, Stitchers brew

You’re a sponge and you didn’t realise it! Learning new skills like sewing is a constant memory booster. Every project can introduce you new techniques and each time you practice or read a tutorial you’re embedding expertise into your brain. Similarly you’re being exposed to more pattern and fabrics than you can imagine. I bet you can recount several patterns you’ve got your eye on with the designer and name or number close to your tongue. This us great for long term memory retention, beating off the early effects of dementia and keeping your brain young!

Decision making

almond rock  blueprints for sewing, creativity, didyoumakethat, logic, memory, passion, problem solving, project management, sewing, Stitchers brew

From pairing patterns with fabric and working out which size to fit, to automatically course correcting your sewing as it’s disappearing under the presser foot, you’re making a range of quick, instinctual, educated, considered or methodical decisions at every stage. Your initiative grows with every scrap of knowledge you learn and remember. And we’ve all had to dive into some problem solving from time to time, assessing the issue and deciding the solution. These problem solving methods can work with any kind of dilemma; just think it through, apply reasoning and weigh up the solutions. And because sewing teaches you the art of mindfulness, flow and quiet calm, you’ve got the mind-space to breathe and work through issues in a level headed way. Channel this the next time something goes wrong outside your craft room!

Passion and creativity

almond rock  blueprints for sewing, creativity, didyoumakethat, logic, memory, passion, problem solving, project management, sewing, Stitchers brew

This one is a little obvious but super important! Creativity is a way of living life that embraces originality. You are literally making yourself more unique! Creative actions help you express your emotions, experiment with risk taking and refine your motor skills giving you nimble fingers. Did you know creative people are better at teamwork and team bonding? Its true! Studies have shown creative people are more sympathetic to others because they understand the feelings of putting yourself out there and they want to collaborate to create better ideas! Strength in numbers you know. And to feel fulfilled you can simply keep seeking new information, new knowledge and new ways to do things, constantly, and then turn it into something magnificent. Plus the fear of being a beginner humbled you in a very raw way, teaching you to appreciate the act of learning and increasing your attention span for new ideas.

Quality standards and consistency

almond rock  blueprints for sewing, creativity, didyoumakethat, logic, memory, passion, problem solving, project management, sewing, Stitchers brew

Seeing your skills grow in a measurable way is really important. Personal growth means working to understand and develop your skills in order to meet your fullest potential. And even better, learning to recognise and reach for benchmarks can be applied to both general career development and other skill building areas. Define your own standards of excellence! For some it’s learning about the strength of a hand sewn stitch, the superior feel of special fabric and the polish of a well finished design element helps you believe in yourself and your skills. You deserve to be great at what you do and you’ll appreciate your best efforts more than anything.

almond rock  blueprints for sewing, creativity, didyoumakethat, logic, memory, passion, problem solving, project management, sewing, Stitchers brew

Phew! That’s quite a lot? Well I probably could go on for longer. It’s hard not to sound like a cheesy self help tape but the facts are there, you just may not have looked at your favourite hobby this way before. Of course we’re all still learning and maybe not all these topics apply for you yet. But don’t do yourself down; sewing is a skill. You may also have a talent for it but you have learnt the techniques, built your confidence and push yourself regularly. How many non-sewers can you say are working this hard on themselves?

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